Racism row over 'Anglo Saxons' as furious historians call for 'white supremacist' term to be binned

A RACISM row has erupted over the phrase "Anglo-Saxon" after historians called for a ban on its use.

Canadian academic Dr Mary Rambaran-Olm said the term was "bound up with white supremacy" and should be replaced with "early English".

Anglo-Saxon traditionally refers to warring groups from Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands who invaded Britain in the fourth century AD.

However, more recently the phrase has been adopted by white-supremacists to describe white people of British origin.

Dr Rambaran-Olm, who was raised in Canada but now lives in Ireland, argued this week that the term should be dropped due to its ties with racism.

The independent expert in medieval history suggested that the moniker "Anglo-Saxon" isn't even historically accurate.

"Historically, the people in early England or ‘Englelond’ did not call themselves 'Anglo-Saxons'," Dr Rambaran-Olm wrote Monday in History Workshop Online.

"The term was used sporadically during the early-English period, but by and large the people in early medieval England referred to themselves as ‘Englisc’ or ‘Anglecynn’."

Anglo-Saxon became more popular as a phrase in the 18th and 19th centuries when it was used to link white people to their "supposed origins".

It was later adopted by Hitler, who wrote of the "Anglo-Saxon determination" to hold India.

Who were the Anglo-Saxons?

Here’s what you need to know…

  • The Anglo-Saxons are a people who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century.
  • They came from northern Germany and southern Scandinavia and stemmed from three powerful tribes – the Angles, Saxons and Jutes.
  • Anglo-Saxons began to invade Britain while the Romans were still in control.
  • The country of ‘England’ did not come into existence for hundreds of years after the Anglo-Saxons first arrived.
  • Instead, conquered areas were carved into seven major kingdoms – Northumbria, East Anglia, Essex, Sussex, Kent, Wessex and Mercia.
  • Each nation was independent and although they shared similar languages, religions and cultures they were fiercely loyal to their own kings and often went to war.
  • The conquered area slowly became known as England (from Angle-land).
  • The period in which they ruled is often referred to as “The Dark Ages” – mainly because written sources for the early years of Saxon invasion are scarce.

Dr Rambaran-Olm told The Times: "Generally, white supremacists use the term to make some sort of connection to their heritage (which is inaccurate) or to make associations with 'whiteness'."

"They also habitually misuse it to try and connect themselves to a warrior past."

John Overholt, curator of early books and manuscripts at Harvard's Houghton Library, backed outlawing the term.

"The term Anglo-Saxon is inextricably bound up with pseudohistorical accounts of white supremacy, and gives aid and comfort to contemporary white supremacists," he wrote on Twitter.

"Scholars of medieval history must abandon it."

A poll held by the International Society of Anglo Saxonists earlier this year saw 60 per cent of the group's 600 members vote to remove the reference to 'Anglo-Saxon' from its name.

But Tom Holland, author of books including Athelstan: The Making of England, argued "scholars must be free to use it".

In a tweet, he wrote of the idea to ditch the term Anglo-Saxon: "Mad as a bag of ferrets, as they say in Deira [a former kingdom]."



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Do you think we should ditch the phrase Anglo-Saxon? Let us know in the comments!

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